Number of students taking SAT is up, scores are down

The College Board this week announced that 1,647,123 students in the class of 2011 took the SAT during high school, the largest class of SAT takers ever.

"In today's knowledge-based, global economy, it's more critical than ever that American students are adequately prepared to pursue advanced degrees and compete for the jobs of the future," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. "Growing participation in the SAT is an encouraging sign that more students are taking the necessary steps toward enrolling in higher education."

Still, mean SAT scores have dropped steadily since 2007 to an average of 497 in critical reading, 514 in math and 489 in writing.

Only 43 percent of college-bound seniors, the College Board says, met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark, which represents the level of academic preparedness associated with a high level of college success and completion.

What the high-scorers have in common

Students who reported completing a core curriculum (four or more years of English, three or more years of math, three or more years of natural science, three or more years of social science and history), had SAT scores that were 143 points higher than those who did not complete a core curriculum. Similarly, students who reported taking Advanced Placement or Honors English had SAT scores that were 163 points higher, and those who reported taking Advanced Placement or Honor Mathematics had SAT scores that were 204 points higher.

Forty-four percent of SAT takers in the class of 2011 were minority students, 36 percent reported being the first in their family to attend college, and 27 percent reported that English was not the only language first learned at home. More than 21 percent of SAT test takers in the class of 2011 took the SAT for free through the College Board's SAT Fee Waiver Program, a 77 percent increase since 2007.

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